MSP CALLS FOR SUBSTANTIAL NEW POWERS TO BENEFIT REGION

SNP MSP for the south of Scotland Joan McAlpine is urging members of the public from across Dumfriesshire to have their say on what further powers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

She has urged them to write to the Smith Commission, which is tasked with bringing more powers to Holyrood in the wake of the independence referendum.  Ms McAlpine believes that only powers that amount to the “Home Rule” promised by the No campaign during the referendum debate will be adequate to address the issues facing Dumfriesshire.

Ms McAlpine said the region would particularly benefit from Scotland having full regulatory powers over telecommunications in order to improve broadband and mobile coverage: these powers are currently reserved to Westminster.  She also wants substantially increased borrowing powers and full control of Scotland’s national wealth to invest in improving infrastructure in the south west.  Ms McAlpine also favours job creating powers, such as the ability to vary business taxes and give incentives to employers who invest in their workforce. 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“It is vital that people from across the region have their say on further devolution.

“This area needs more investment in infrastructure and has suffered because Westminster determines Scotland’s entire capital budget – something that has been cut by 26%.  We need more capital investment to improve road and rail links in particular.  Dumfries sits twenty miles from the motorway and the fastest train from the town to Glasgow takes just shy of two hours, limiting commuting opportunities.

“Transport is currently a devolved issue, but the Scottish Parliament currently lacks substantial borrowing powers and control over all our revenues to allow it to invest in infrastructure. Until this happens, the UK government will always be more interested in projects that benefit London and the south east, such as HS2 and the London Crossrail.”

She added:

“Another issue that comes up across this rural constituency is lack of adequate broadband and mobile phone signal.  How can people run small businesses in the area when their broadband signal keeps dropping out or they are unable to us their mobile phone? 

“Devolving telecommunications to the Scottish Parliament would allow Scotland to come up with a solution that works for a country such as in Sweden, where despite low population density they have almost 100% broadband coverage.”

“Having the same business tax regime in Surrey and Dumfries and Galloway does not make sense. Power pulls money and jobs into the South East of England and we need to be able to give extra help to businesses in regions such as Dumfries and Galloway through the tax regime – but in a way that focuses on boosting employment.”

The Commission, chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, is seeking views from across Scottish public life about which new financial, welfare and taxation powers should be devolved.

The Commission will produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to strengthen the Scottish Parliament within the UK.

Members of the public are now welcome to submit their views to help guide the Commission’s consideration of what further powers should be devolved to strengthen the Scottish Parliament within the UK.

The deadline for responding is 5pm on 31 October.

There are three ways you can make sure your views are heard.

Email: Please email your responses to haveyoursay@smith-commission.scot

Mail: Please write to The Smith Commission, 7th Floor, 144 Morrison Street, EH3 8EX

Website: There will also be a dedicated ‘haveyoursay’ page on the website from Monday 13 October where you can put your ideas in directly.

It is Lord Smith’s intention to conduct the Commission’s work transparently and submissions will be published on the Commission’s website shortly after the deadline (in line with the policy on handling written submissions).


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